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Data-driven farming is key to Zambia’s agriculture sector, says Paratus

Agriculture 3.0 – the promise of a data-driven farming sector in which commercial farmers harness satellite technology and the power of the internet – is the future for Zambia, according to connectivity specialists Paratus Telecom Zambia.

Zambian agriculture is progressing from labour-intensive subsistence agriculture to increasingly industrial agriculture using tractors, combined harvesters, chemical fertilisers and hybrid science, which has doubled productivity in recent years.

Successful commercial farmers in Zambia are already adopting the third stage of development – agriculture 3.0 – drawing from the models of the vast farming enterprises of the mid-West of the United States to increase yields still further.

The secret to that third stage is the use of data: combining sensors on farm equipment with sophisticated satellite tracking and imagery, as well as detailed weather tracking, enabling precision farming that optimises the efficiency of water and fertiliser use, thus cutting costs and increasing yields simultaneously.

“Commercial farmers in Zambia are entering an exciting new era,” said Paratus Country Manager Marius van Vuuren, speaking ahead of this week’s Agritech Expo Zambia event in Chisamba. “The technology has been available in the US and Europe for some time; what’s different is that for the first time we now have the cutting edge data connectivity available here to make precision farming a viable option for farmers.”

Not only is this great news for farming businesses, but in a wider context it also increases the rate at which Zambia is able to progress towards its goal of being both food secure domestically, and in a position to feed the region, added Mr van Vuuren.

Paratus is participating in the annual Agritech Expo, a business-to-business platform for agricultural professionals that attracts farmers from across the country and beyond.

Paratus’ involvement in this year’s event is part of the company’s wider efforts to engage farmers in new technology and support the agricultural industry.

The company already provides internet connectivity to farmers in the key agricultural centres of Mkushi, Mazabuka, Chisamba, Mpongwe and Chipata and is seeing growing demand for its reliable and solutions from within the sector.

“We understand that connectivity is important to farmers. Farmers, perhaps more than many other business-people, understand the concept of risk – and risk reduction. And data, information and communication is central to reducing that risk,” he added.

Government has taken a deliberate policy to diversify the economic base from a reliance on mining to agriculture, and farming has become the most important means in helping drive the economy.

Mr van Vuuren said there were numerous benefits that a reliable connectivity can bring to farmers. Access to information is key and aid the farmer towards higher crop yields, reducing the risk of crop failure, and minimising operational costs. Connectivity is vital to having access to all the information that is available.

The internet is also key to improving access to financial services, provision of agricultural information, improving data visibility for supply chain efficiency and enhancing access to markets.

(Source: Langmead & Baker)